The Timmonsville Town Council approved the first reading Tuesday of an ordinance that would make it unlawful for people to engage in public nudity, display pornographic material, display the flesh of their rear ends or wear pants that intentionally display their undergarments while in the town.
Councilman Walter Washington presented Ordinance No. 543 at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The ordinance states: It shall be unlawful for any person driving or walking the streets and roads of the town of Timmonsville to: (a) engage in public nudity; (b) display pornographic material such that others are unwantingly exposed to the same or that minors are able to view the same; (c) display the flesh of one’s rear-end, behind or backside during stationary or movement within the city limits; (d) wear pants, trousers, or shorts such that the known undergarments are intentional displayed/exposed to the public.
The ordinance is similar to the ordinance passed in 2008 in Jasper County that prohibits anyone from wearing pants more than three inches below the hips, exposing the skin or undergarments.
Law enforcement may give a verbal warning to anyone found in violation of the ordinance and the violator’s name may be retained for notice of subsequent violations, according to the ordinance.
On second violation, the violator may be given a written warning with his or her name placed in law enforcement registry for notice of subsequent violations. On a third or more violation, the violator will be issued a citation with a fine ranging from $100 to $600 as determined by the city judge, according to the ordinance.
Most council members who attended Tuesday’s meeting were in support of the ordinance. When it came time to vote on the first reading, Councilwoman Cheryl Qualls abstained. Councilman James Pigate was not present at the meeting.
Qualls said the only part of the ordinance she had a question about was Section D, which stated that it would be unlawful for people walking the streets or driving in the town to wear pants that intentionally expose undergarments.
“After doing research, it is very possible that Section D will do many things,” Qualls said. “It will increase racial profiling on some of our children here in Timmonsville and across the country.”
Qualls said some manufacturers now design clothes to make it appear that men or women are sagging their pants when in actuality, it is just how the clothes are made.
"When one child can afford $50 for a pair of pants that’s designed to show underwear and another child cannot and they are together and the child who cannot afford the $50 designer pants is also dressed identical to his friend, then you’re now taxing the mother of the child who can’t afford it," Qualls said.
Mayor Pro Tem William James Jr. said he was in support of the ordinance when Washington first brought it up, and he still is.
“I think other towns are actually doing it, and we need to do it,” James said. “We need to get a handle on Timmonsville. In order to clean up Timmonsville, this is one of the things we’re going to have to start (doing).”
Washington said Ordinance No. 543 is an effort to make the town look better and make people want to go to Timmonsville without being scared.
“We’re trying to build up our town. And we can have the business, but if the people are not looking somewhat decent, then we have the business but because of the people, they’ll be scared to get out of their cars,” Washington said.
Councilman Woodrow Thomas Jr. said he thinks the town’s current dress code needs to be updated and the residents and law enforcement should work with the youth and monitor them. He said sometimes youth simply need to know people care for them.
Mayor Darrick Jackson said it will take two readings for Ordinance No. 543 to go into effect.